Daycares are remaining closed for now as they seek more funding from the province to address the increased demands of the pandemic.
The province announced daycares could start reopening June 12, with enhanced safety measures. However, many daycares are halting any reopening until the provincial government can fund the costs of enhanced measures, as well as ensuring provincial grants can be used to help cover for wages.
The Minden daycare is in that position. The building will be closed for at least six months as construction gets underway for a planned expansion, delayed by COVID-19. But Compass Early Learning and Care CEO and Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care (OCBCC) president Sheila Olan-MacLean said the wage picture needs to be sorted for the daycare to run with an alternative arrangement at local schools.
“It’s like the province does not want to own any problems that arise from opening up,” Olan-MacLean said. “It was just kind of insulting the way that the announcement was made.”
Childcare centres have been relying on the federal government’s 75 per cent wage coverage since they closed in March. OlanMacLean said they have used provincial dollars to make up the rest and continue paying staff, but were then told in May funds could not be used for that purpose. That stands to put Compass, which runs daycares throughout the region, into a $600,000 deficit, she said.
“We were told something, made business decisions based on what we were told, and then 10 weeks into the closure, what they call the ‘sustainability plan’ was really disastrous for all of childcare,” OlanMacLean said.
Meanwhile, Haliburton Wee Care supervisor Denise Wolm said the daycare is not sure when it can open.
“There are a lot of factors to take into consideration including funding and preparations which need to be done in order to ensure everyone’s safety which is first and foremost,” she said.
In a June 13 letter, Minister of Education Stephen Lecce said the province would provide funding to centres for cleaning, personal protective equipment and enhanced staffing levels.
“We know the integral role childcare plays in the restart of Ontario’s economy,” Lecce said. “We have taken action to support licenced childcare providers to enable them to remain sustainable.”
Lecce also listed the required safety measures, including keeping groups to 10 or less, screening all staff and children, enhanced cleaning and restricted visitors. Olan-MacLean said the province still needs to answer for wage funding.
She said daycares have continued to help people on an emergency basis and are capable of reopening with the proper support.
“We think that we can do it safely,” she said. “We also do not want to open up our doors for children if it’s not in their best interests … It’s really important that we have the staffing we need.”